Thanks to self-involved host Garry Shandling and his penchant for backstage skits, this year's Emmys resembled nothing more than a long episode of Shandling's defunct faux HBO talk show, The Larry Sanders Show.
While some of those skits were truly funny — Shandling's reported real-life girlfriend, Calista Flockhart, dissed the hair-obsessed comedian for hitting on her, and David Duchovny popped up as a bathroom attendant to continue his groin-related joke string with Shandling — other bits fell flat on their face. That happened most notably when a leering Shandling (doing his best Bill Maher impersonation) prompted the trophy girl to read a cue card in his place and then made fun of her when she tripped over the word "comedian."
Other highlights (and lowlights) of the 52nd Annual Emmy Awards:
Most memorable speeches: Producer Max Mutchnick (Outstanding Comedy Series, Will & Grace): "She [the Emmy] is so beautiful, and as a gay man, I cannot believe that I'm saying this, but I think I've finally met a girl I want to sleep with."
James Gandolfini (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, The Sopranos): "I can't really explain this, except that I think the Academy has an affinity for slightly overweight bald men … excuse me, Mr. Franz."
Series creator-writer Aaron Sorkin (Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, The West Wing): "Well, there's going to be no living with me now."
Jack Lemmon (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, Tuesdays With Morrie): "Wrap it up? I'd like to thank those people too."
Producer Rob Burnett (Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series, Late Show With David Letterman): "David, if you're watching at home, it looks like the fake heart surgery paid off."
Sean Hayes (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Will & Grace): "David Hyde Pierce, thank you for single-handedly nominating me last year."
Best reactions: Halle Berry (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge): "It's sort of mixed emotions. … I'm a little bit sad for the end of my Dorothy Dandridge journey." When asked about her Emmy calm in comparison to her sobbing when she won for the same role at the Golden Globes, she said, "I was determined to be more dignified this time and not break down on national television!"
Allison Janney (Oustanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, The West Wing), after viewing the tape of her acceptance speech: "At first I looked like I was doing the worst double take ever, and then I looked like I was going to throw up."
Sean Hayes, when asked how his character, Jack, would respond to winning an Emmy: "He'd scream so loud all the dogs would run."
Best ex-avoidance: Ellen DeGeneres and Anne Heche divvied up the awards shows this weekend: Ellen made it to the Emmys, while Anne showed up at the Women in Film ceremony. Also, former Emmy winner Helen Hunt was noticeably absent from this year's proceedings, missing estranged hubby Hank Azaria bringing home the Emmy for his role in the ABC weepie Tuesdays With Morrie.
Best remembrance: James Gandolfini, on his late TV mother, actress Nancy Marchand, who died this year after a long battle with cancer: "The first day at work, I was a little intimidated by her — until she came in and said, 'What the f--k is my line?' She was a very classy lady, but she'd been around."
Best future host: Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s Wayne Brady out-Crystaled Billy Crystal in his clever TV-themed song medley. Forget a guest shot on Friends as "Rachel's dark-skinned cousin, Raheem," and get this engaging song-and-dance (and improv) man an Oscar-hosting gig.
Funniest clip sequence: Instead of showcasing his own nominated show, Conan O'Brien showed a medley of film clips from the movie career of Charlton Heston (Planet of the Apes, Ben-Hur). "It's a madhouse, a madhouse," as Chuck would have said.
Most popular on the red carpet: Sure, the crowd went wild for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, but it was Survivor's Rudy, the first celeb to arrive at the Emmys, who had the bleacher bunch chanting his name.
Casting commandment: Burly, white-haired Brian Dennehy, in town to bring his Tony-winning and Emmy-nominated performance in Death of a Salesman to the Los Angeles stage, seems born to play Democratic patriarch Ted Kennedy.
Most discussed topic backstage: The support for the Screen Actors Guild commercial actors strike (which actors honored by wearing a yellow ribbon) and the possibility of a writers' strike and a feature-film actors' strike.
John Wells, a producer of The West Wing and the president of the Writers' Guild: "There's been a lot of saber-rattling but I'm not convinced that there's going to be a strike — that's the Writers' Guild's hope."
Sela Ward, of Once & Again and a spokeswoman for Sprint: "I forgot my ribbon at home but I'm supporting the strike. I survived on commercials for many years."